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Columbus police cannot use force against peaceful protesters, federal judge rules

Judge Algenon Marbley said the Columbus, Ohio police officers were out of control during last year’s protests in the city.

Columbus. Ohio police protests Sipa USA via AP

A federal judge ruled that police in Columbus, Ohio cannot use force against non-violent protesters.

Algenon Marbley, chief judge for the Southern District of Ohio, wrote an 88-page opinion that began with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights.”

The judge said the police officers were out of control during protests in the city last year and used weapons and tactics such as rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades, body slams and kettling against the protesters.

“Unfortunately, some of the members of the Columbus Police Department had no regard for the rights secured by this bedrock principle of American democracy,” Marbley wrote. “This case is the sad tale of police officers, clothed with the awesome power of the state, run amok.”

Officers must now allow members of the media to record the demonstrations and allow medical personnel to assist those who may be injured.

More than 20 protesters sued the city after participating in George Floyd protests last year during the summer. They said the cops used excessive force against non-violent protesters through the use of sound cannons, pepper spray, tear gas, wooden bullets and batons.

“We are pleased that the Court recognized the truth of the overwhelming testimony, shocking videos, and heart-wrenching pictures and issued an injunction which protects the people from the police,” said Sean Walton, the attorney representing the plaintiffs.

Marbley’s ruling comes just days after Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and City Attorney Zach Klein called for a federal probe into the city’s police force following the fatal police shooting of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant.

“This is not about one particular officer, policy, or incident; rather, this is about reforming the entire institution of policing in Columbus,” Ginther and Klein wrote. “Simply put: We need to change the culture of the Columbus Division of Police.”

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